Five things you need to know this week about global education

News Roundup May 31 Main Safe Schools
90 countries have pledged to make schools safe for children (UN Photo)

Children in conflicts, Education in emergencies, Safe schools, Safe Schools Declaration, The Global Business Coalition for Education (GBC-Education), Youth skills

90 countries pledge to protect education from attack

Ninety countries have now signed the Safe Schools Declaration – a commitment to protect children from attacks on education. Guatemala, Gambia and Nicaragua added their names at the third International Safe Schools Conference in Spain this week.

The conference brought together about 300 representatives of governments, United Nations agencies and international organisations. 

They discussed ways to build on the progress that has been made in protecting students, teachers and education staff who face dangers in armed conflict.

New data showed there were over 14,000 armed attacks on education in 34 countries in the past five years – including about 10,000 attacks on schools, where buildings were bombed, damaged or used by armed forces or groups.

It was also revealed that the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan led to the closure of over 1,000 schools by the end of 2018 and denied education to 500,000 children.

UNICEF Executive Director told the conference: “We call on all states to endorse the declaration. But endorsements are only a first step. Commitment must be matched by action.”

Read our full report on the International Safe Schools Conference.

280m children much better off than in 2000

News Roundup May 31 Child Labour

One in eight children are dramatically better off today than at any time in the past two decades (UN Photo)

The number of children who are married, pregnant, labourers, die violently or miss out on school has fallen by almost 30% to 690 million since 2000, when nations endorsed the Millennium Development Goals.

At least 280 million children, or one in eight, are dramatically better off today than at any time in the past two decades, according to a report by Save the Children that examined education, health child marriage and child labour practices in 176 countries. Here are some facts from the Global Childhood Report on how children fare today compared to 2000:

  • About one in four of the 2.3 billion children alive today have been robbed of their childhoods by child marriage, early pregnancy, exclusion from education, sickness and malnutrition.
  • The number of stunted children fell by 49 million since 2000 to 149 million. But numbers have risen in Africa, which accounts for four in 10 children who are stunted due to poor nutrition and infection.
  • An additional 130 million children are now in school, 60% of them girls. Some 262 million children remain out of school.
  • There are 94 million fewer child labourers, with eastern Europe and Central Asia making the most noticeable gains. But one in 10 – or about 152 million – children still work.
  • The number of child brides dropped by nearly 11 million to 37 million, with South Asia halving its early marriage rates.

39% of youth say school doesn't give them skills they need for work

Four in 10 young people say their school education did not prepare them for the job they want, according to research into the opportunities and barriers for youth employment and skills.

Five hundred people aged 15 to 29 around the world were surveyed as part of a report by the Global Business Coalition for Education and Deloitte Global.

The report – Preparing tomorrow’s workforce for the Fourth Industrial Revolution – argues that failing to adequately train the next generation of workers for the digitally-driven economy will lead to greater income inequality, increased unemployment, increased government expenditures and more mass migrations.

The survey revealed that:

  • 79% said their personal career interests do not align with jobs available in their community
  • 52% were unable to find a way to gain the skills they wanted and 50% did not have the financial resources to do
  • 79% of those currently not working are actively looking for a job

Female mentors to protect girls at Bangladesh schools

News Roundup May 31St Bangladesh Female Mentors

Bangladesh has ordered schools to appoint female mentors to prevent violence against girls (World Bank)

Bangladesh has ordered state-funded Islamic schools to appoint female mentors to prevent violence against girls – after at least 16 people were charged with the horrific murder of a teenage student.

Activists say the killing of Nusrat Jahan Rafi exposed a “culture of impunity” surrounding sex crimes and that those who report harassment often suffer a backlash.

Rafi, 19, was doused in kerosene and set alight on the order of the head teacher at her school after she accused him of sexual harassment. She died in hospital on April 10 after suffering 80% burns.

Saif Ullah, head of the Bangladesh Madrasa Education Board, which controls nearly 10,000 schools, said they have ordered each madrasa to appoint a woman mentor to “create awareness among students and teachers”. The government earlier ordered more than 27,000 state schools and colleges to form committees to prevent sexual violence.

Palestinian schoolgirl wins peace message prize

A 15-year-old Palestinian schoolgirl has been named as the winner of the 2019 Inspirational Messages of Peace Contest award. Jameela Abu Jom’a, a student at a school run by the UN agency UNRWA, was chosen from more than 3,000 entries and will have her message displayed at Martin Luther King Jr National Historical Park in Atlanta for a year.

She said: “I am very proud that my words of peace were heard and I hope this will raise awareness about the hopes and dreams of Palestine refugee children.”

Here is part of her message:

As long as we can love, why do we choose to hate?
As long as we can make friends and tolerate,
Then why do we antagonise and debate?
Why don’t we leave aside malice, animosity and hate?
And search for love inside our hearts before it’s too late.

Her award was praised by Pierre Krähenbühl, Commissioner-General  of UNRWA. He also said the agency – which runs 711 schools for Palestinian children – will run out of money in the next couple of weeks due to an ongoing funding crisis after the US withdrew its financial backing.

He said $1.2 billion was needed from donors to ensure schools open for the next academic year in August. A pledging conference will be held in New York on June 25.

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